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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Manchester United can brush off their critics and beat Spurs

Tottenham could struggle at Old Trafford

Manchester United star Paul Pogba
1 of 1

Sky Sports Premier League, 8pm Monday

Manchester United have been heavily criticised in the wake of their woeful 3-2 defeat at Brighton but big teams often respond positively to a setback and punters should back the Red Devils to do that by beating Tottenham at Old Trafford.

It was clear from the early minutes of the game at Brighton that United were not firing on all cylinders.

The attitude of some of their players didn't seem right and captain Paul Pogba admitted as much in his post-match interview.

United were also weakened by the absence of some important players.

First-team regulars Nemanja Matic - their best midfield player last season - Antonio Valencia and Alexis Sanchez were missing and Mourinho persisted with Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof at centre-back after the pair had failed to impress in the 2-1 success over Leicester.

A lot has been said about United's failure to sign a central defender but Chris Smalling, who made 29 league appearances last term, was on the bench.

Smalling played a starring role when United defeated Spurs 2-1 in last season's FA Cup semi-finals and must have a strong case for a recall as Jose Mourinho ponders the best way of keeping Harry Kane in check.

United should be stronger in terms of personnel and it is hard to imagine them not playing with more desire and application than they showed on the south coast.

Tottenham will see the game as a great opportunity as they seek to open up a six-point gap on one of their key rivals for a top-four finish.

But their record at Old Trafford is dreadful and it hasn't got any better since Mauricio Pochettino arrived in the summer of 2014.

Four league visits under the Argentinian have brought four defeats with Spurs failing to score a single goal.

Looking at the Tottenham team they are clearly capable of mixing it with the big guns, but their record away to the top sides does not inspire confidence.

They won 3-1 at Chelsea last term, ending a 28-year wait for a victory at Stamford Bridge, but that success is only the second Pochettino's Spurs have achieved from 20 away league games against the rest of the big six.

There are still many more mental barriers which the Londoners need to break down and winning at Manchester United is one of them.

A lot has been said of United's struggles but they remain a tough side to beat on home soil.

Mourinho's men have won eight of the last nine Premier League home matches and those included 2-1 victories over Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Supporters are rightly concerned by the dreadful performance at Brighton and it is hard to see United becoming serious title challengers any time soon.

Finishing in the top four won't be easy but United's players and management are more likely to pull in the same direction when the big fixtures come around and they may just have enough to topple Spurs.

Manchester United
1pt 13-8 Betfair

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Team news
Manchester United
Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez and Antonio Valencia are back in training and could return. Diogo Dalot lacks match fitness.

Mauricio Pochettino has a decision to make over captain Hugo Lloris, who has been charged with drink-driving. Victor Wanyama (knee) is not quite ready and Heung-Min Son is away on international duty.

Key stat
Tottenham have won two of their last 22 league games away to the other big-six clubs.

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Tottenham have won two of their last 22 league games away to big six clubs
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